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Surface noise is our competitive edge - Slack re. the juke versus iTunes Radio

Author Topic: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp  (Read 3865 times)

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chipmonk doug

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Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« on: September 01, 2006, 03:58:22 AM »
My wife plays harp in our duo, and what she plays is melody harp.

Looking for some history on when the standard blues harp changed from melody harp to cross harp.


Offline Slack

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2006, 07:19:38 AM »
Hi Doug,

The harmonica doesn't change, it is just the scale or position being played that changes.  I think what you refer to melody harp is also referred to as straight harp or 1st position.  For straight harp, most of the scale or melody notes are derived from blowing.  For blues harp (cross harp or2nd position), most from drawing.  The advantage of drawing: the notes are more easily bent... which of course, blues players really groove on.  Ability to bend the heck out of the draw notes are why blues players play in cross harp.

Then there are 3rd and 4th positions.  There are some good books that teach all positions -- maybe someone who knows more than I can recommend some.

Cheers,

chipmonk doug

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2006, 03:44:18 AM »
Yep 1st position is the same as melody harp.

In earlier recordings the melody harp seems to be the standard, by post war time the cross harp seems to be the standard.  Wondering about the change and harpers that moved from melody to cross harp.

Offline Slack

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2006, 08:10:12 AM »
Have you checked the Wikipedia?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonica#History

The first recordings of harmonica were made in the U.S. in the 1920s. These recordings are mainly 'race-records', intended for the black market of the southern states. They consist mainly of solo recordings (DeFord Bailey), duo recordings with a guitarist (Hammie Nixon, Walter Horton, Sonny Terry) or recordings featuring the harmonica in jug bands, of which the Memphis Jug Band is the most famous. But the harmonica still represented a toy instrument in those years and was associated with the poor. It is also during those years that musicians started experimenting with new techniques such as tongue-blocking, hand effects and the most important innovation of all, the 2nd position, or cross-harp.

Offline Buzz

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2006, 06:21:06 PM »
yo! Slack!

Stop surfing the net , and get back in the workshop--make another small Gibson parlor size that sounds terrific!  ;D

Buzz
Do good, be nice, eat well, smile, treat the ladies well, and ignore all news reports--which  can't be believed anyway,

Buzz

Offline Buzz

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2006, 06:22:11 PM »
Just kidding!

Fascinating stuff about the first and second positions.

Back to lurking... :D

Buzz
Do good, be nice, eat well, smile, treat the ladies well, and ignore all news reports--which  can't be believed anyway,

Buzz

smilnJackB

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2006, 08:57:35 AM »
This an interesting post for me as I am someone who moslty plays Melody or Straight harp.   Some people have the idea that if you are playing blues harmonica, you ought to be playing cross harp style.  I disagree with that, I think either style can work well.
 
    I often play straight/melody harp on a harness while I play guitar.   I am unable to play cross style while I play guitar.  And I am more of a melody style player anyway.  At least at my current level.

    Cross harp advocates tell me they can get more 'Nuances' with cross style and bends.  I think I am able to get those nuances and variations while playing melody harp and I do some bends playing melody harp, especially on the V chord part of the song.

    An advantage to cross harp players is that quite a few blues songs are in the key of E.  If you play a standard E harp harp in straight harp style it sounds high pitched.--   A standard G harp is the lowest pitched harp and each higher key has a higher pitch. -- So, E and F harps have the highest pitches.   Cross harp players play an A harp in key of E songs and they get a low pitch, which often sounds better.   

     I bought a 'Low E' harp for playing in E so I can get that low pitched growl while playing straight harp.  It works for me.

     Regardless of style, harp playing is fun and it adds a lot to many songs.  Choose your style or styles and harp on.
    Jack ;)

chipmonk doug

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2006, 03:18:40 AM »
Neat, Jack.  What brand low E harp, my wife would like to know.


smilnJackB

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2006, 06:20:19 AM »
Doug,
    My low E is a Hohner that I bought from Musician' Friend.  I like it.  I have a couple Hohners and some Huangs, which seem to sound good and last a while.  Some time I will splurge and buy a Lee Oscar.   I am no expert, but some people really like the Hohner Golden Melody for melody harp.  Jack

chipmonk doug

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2006, 04:19:26 AM »
Jack,
She mostly doesn't like Hohners, she was using Susiki but had changed and is buying the Bushman Delta Frost now.  But for a low E she might deal with the hohner.

doug

Offline Lwoodblues

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2006, 09:33:07 PM »
Glad to see the harp group start to converse>
lwood

chipmonk doug

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2006, 04:04:50 AM »
I'm only indirectly part of the harp group.  ;)  Carried one in the guitar case for 30+ yrs and never got it.  Wife picked it up about 4 yrs ago and was gigging in 4 mo.  She doesn't do forums directly and I don't ask why, time I would guess.  :)

So everything from me is second hand.  She keeps saying if you can whistle you can blow the harp.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2006, 09:46:30 AM »
Thanks for the informative post, SJ. I'm pretty much a harp ignoramus, though do have a Hohner Pro among my Marine Bands and have always very much liked the "comfort" of it.

I agree about the forgiving quality of cross harp. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to sound like a bad harmonica player.

I've been listening to a lot of Memphis Jug Band lately and particularly enjoy the interplay between the harp, kazoo and singing, and just the harp playing in general, which tends to be quite melodic (though not necessarily "melody harp" or first position). Wondering if any of you more experienced harp players have thoughts about Will Shade's playing, what position he tends to favour etc.

Offline Cambio

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2006, 07:00:08 AM »
I've been listening to the Memphis Jug Band (the compilation that Yazoo did a while back) in the shop lately.  Will Shade plays both straight and cross harp.  Here's what I came up with from the tracks on that CD

On the Road Again- key of C, he plays cross with an F harp.
Stealin- Key of G, he plays cross with a C harp.
KC Moan- Key of E, he plays cross with an A harp.
Cocaine Habit-Key of C, he plays straight with a C harp.
Whitewash Station- Key of B, he plays straight with a B harp.
The Old Folks Started it- Key of G, he he plays cross with a C harp.
Gator Wobble- Key of B, he plays cross with an E harp.
Beale St. Messaround- Key of C, he plays cross with an F harp.
This will bring you back- Key of C, he plays straight with a C harp.

I think the fact that he played both straight and cross keeps him from sounding repetitive and keeps it interesting.  He also seems to be playing  parts rather than the incessant jamming of most modern harmonica players. 

I know that Big Walter Horton also played with the Memphis Jugband toward the tail end of its existence.  I've always tended to really like Walter Horton because he was very adept at playing both cross and straight harp, the latter much more so than his post war contemporaries.  To me that always meant that he still had one foot back in the old time world.
Look out Uncle Bud, it's a slippery slope.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Melody Harp vs Cross Harp
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2006, 08:32:48 PM »
I've been listening to the Memphis Jug Band (the compilation that Yazoo did a while back) in the shop lately.  Will Shade plays both straight and cross harp.  Here's what I came up with from the tracks on that CD

On the Road Again- key of C, he plays cross with an F harp.
Stealin- Key of G, he plays cross with a C harp.
KC Moan- Key of E, he plays cross with an A harp.
Cocaine Habit-Key of C, he plays straight with a C harp.
Whitewash Station- Key of B, he plays straight with a B harp.
The Old Folks Started it- Key of G, he he plays cross with a C harp.
Gator Wobble- Key of B, he plays cross with an E harp.
Beale St. Messaround- Key of C, he plays cross with an F harp.
This will bring you back- Key of C, he plays straight with a C harp.

Thanks for that, Todd. Very helpful.

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I think the fact that he played both straight and cross keeps him from sounding repetitive and keeps it interesting.  He also seems to be playing  parts rather than the incessant jamming of most modern harmonica players. 

I agree, and it is a big factor in Shade's appeal for me, I think. The arrangements of the Memphis Jug Band are really great, and a whole other thread.

Quote
Look out Uncle Bud, it's a slippery slope.

I have enough trouble with guitar...  :D

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